Electronics (Apr 2021)

What Do We Know about The Use of Virtual Reality in the Rehabilitation Field? A Brief Overview

  • Antonino Naro,
  • Rocco Salvatore Calabrò

DOI
https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics10091042
Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 1042
p. 1042

Abstract

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Over the past two decades, virtual reality technology (VRT)-based rehabilitation has been increasingly examined and applied to assist patient recovery in the physical and cognitive domains. The advantages of the use of VRT in the neurorehabilitation field consist of the possibility of training an impaired function as a way to stimulate neuron reorganization (to maximize motor learning and neuroplasticity) and restoring and regaining functions and abilities by interacting with a safe and nonthreatening yet realistic virtual reality environment (VRE). Furthermore, VREs can be tailored to patient needs and provide personalized feedback on performance. VREs may also support cognitive training and increases patient motivation and enjoyment. Despite these potential advantages, there are inconclusive data about the usefulness of VRT in neurorehabilitation settings, and some issues on feasibility and safety remain to be ascertained for some neurological populations. The present brief overview aims to summarize the available literature on VRT applications in neurorehabilitation settings, along with discussing the pros and cons of VR and introducing the practical issues for research. The available studies on VRT for rehabilitation purposes over the past two decades have been mostly preliminary and feature small sample sizes. Furthermore, the studies dealing with VRT as an assessment method are more numerous than those harnessing VRT as a training method; however, the reviewed studies show the great potential of VRT in rehabilitation. A broad application of VRT is foreseeable in the near future due to the increasing availability of low-cost VR devices and the possibility of personalizing VR settings and the use of VR at home, thus actively contributing to reducing healthcare costs and improving rehabilitation outcomes.

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